I recently finished reading Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley (the son of one of the surviving men that raised the flag). It is about the six men that raised the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. Even though there is proof that these men raised the flag, there was alot of controversy over the actual picture.
Out of the six men that raised the flag only three survived, Ira Hayes, John "Doc" Bradley, and Rene Gagnon. When the picture made its way back into the United States shortly after it was taken, these three men were immediately sent home from combat. They were greeted in Washington by the President and his cabinet. They were called "heroes" and thanked for their courage in such a risky battle. They were turned into celebrities and asked to tour around the country and share their story about that fateful day. However, this was not what the men wanted at all and they actually had a different story to tell people.
The men did not in any way feel like heroes. John Bradley constantly stated "the real heroes are the ones that never came home from Iwo." Bradley, a corpsman never took any credit for the actions he took and the many lives he helped and tried to save on Iwo Jima. Later on in his life he never once spoke of the things he did and saw back there. Even his family never knew that he received the medal of honor until after he died.
Ira Hayes was never the same after he came back from Iwo. He turned to drinking and found himself in jail a few times for it. After years of struggling with alcoholism he passed away after he was found laying outside in the snow...intoxicated.
Rene Gagnon was the only man that did accept some credit for the events that occurred. He accepted the tour around the country and openly shared his story with others. he was proud to be part of that photo, but he too never spoke much of all the good friends that he left behind.
The intriguing part about the photograph was that it was not the first flag that was raised on Iwo Jima, in fact it was a replacement flag. The men did not see raising the flag as a sign of patriotism like the people back home did. Many of the men referred to the photo as "I saw some guys raising a pole and jumped in to help" and "If i had it any other way, I wouldn't have been in the picture, I don't feel like a hero and never will be one" and "It was only a picture." None of the men in the photograph saw it as being anything more than a picture. They had no intentions of becoming famous and they feel that the real heroes are the other men in the photograph that did not live to share their story.
This was one of the best history books I have ever read. Bradly does an exceptional job at really describing the lives of the men that were over analyzed and portrayed in different ways throughout the United States. He wrote about their childhood, their experiences in the Marines, and their lives after the war. Bradley deserves a lot of credit for the amount of effort he gave to really tell the story the way he knew his father would have wanted it.